Lindy Remigino, the underdog sprinter who pulled an upset in the closest race in Olympic sprint history, died Wednesday. He was 87 years old.
Nobody was talking about Remigino going into the summer of 1952, especially after the Manhattan College junior finished fifth at the NCAA championships. But when he showed up at the 1952 U.S. Olympic Team Trials and took second place in the 100-yard, he earned a spot at the Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland.
The surprises continued in Helsinki.
After winning his first two heats and finishing second in the semis, Remigino, 21, was one of two Americans to qualify for the 100-meter final. He won the gold medal with a time of 10.4 seconds, edging Jamaican standout sprinter Herb McKenley by .01 seconds.
“I won by about one inch. I should have won that race by about a yard,” Remigino said in a 2017 interview with USA Track & Field. “I got off to a good start and was leading by quite a bit. I was saying to myself, ‘I’m gonna win this!’ I stuck my chest out, and it was 20 meters before the line. My strides got smaller and smaller, and I almost blew it.”
Later in the Games, Remigino captured gold once again. He was the third leg on the U.S. 4x100-meter team and helped put the U.S. in a position to win.
Lindy Remigino (third from right) crosses the finish line in the men’s 100-meter at the Olympic Games Helsinki 1952 on July 21, 1952 in Helsinki, Finland.
“I have never meet a finer man than Lindy Remigino. Old school, gracious, humble and always had a big smile on his face,” said U.S. Olympians & Paralympians Association Manager Cindy Stinger. “I loved seeing Lindy at the New York Athletic Club events as he was a member and as we celebrate the 150-year anniversary of the NYAC, I am honored to have known such a fine man and Olympic champion. He will be missed by so many who knew and loved him. It is on his shoulders that many, many Olympians stand!”
Born on June 3, 1931, in New York, was named after famous pilot Charles Lindberg. Remigino graduated from Hartford Public High School before running track at Manhattan.
Following his gold-medal performance in Helsinki, Remigino retired from elite competition and finished his degree at Manhattan.
Upon graduating, Remigino entered the coaching world at his alma mater, Hartford Public High School. Remigino added to his legend by coaching his teams to 31 state titles in 43 years. His track success inspired members of his family to also try the sport, according to a 2017 Hartford Courant story.